Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

First Cathedral (Baptist), Bloomfield, CTIt took over two years, but the town of Enfield here in Connecticut finally resolved a lawsuit it brought on itself by holding its high school graduation in churches. The Hartford Courant reports on the settlement (WebCite cached article):

In a 6-3 vote, the school board decided Wednesday night to accept a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU over the school system’s practice of holding high school graduation ceremonies in a church.

The American Civil Liberties Union and another group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed the suit two years ago after the school board decided to hold graduation ceremonies for both Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School at First Cathedral in Bloomfield.

I’d blogged about this conflict, back when it erupted in spring of 2010. At the time litigation over this began, various Christianist legal outfits had promised the town and its Board of Education that they’d pay the legal fees, thus encouraging them to defend the lawsuit despite having no chance of prevailing. But I note, in the end, these promises proved bogus, because none of those groups are paying a dime:

The school board’s insurance provider, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, will cover the cost of the settlement up to $470,000, Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann said. The exact dollar amount of the settlement was not revealed.

I wonder if their Jesus taught these guys not to keep their word?

The Courant article includes the expected childish whining and bellyaching on the part of Christianists, both on the Board and in the town, who don’t like the vote and call the ACLU and AU “bullies.” Well … boo fucking hoo, you crybabies! What you were doing was unconstitutional, and you know it. If you had any integrity in the first place, you’d realize that, and would now show the courage to admit having been wrong. But you won’t, because you have no courage; you’re just juvenile religionists who can’t help but stamp and fume when someone dares thwart you.

Photo credit: Hartford Courant.

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Godless Atheists Menace Western, Christian Civilization: Godless Atheists & Godless Sodomites Imperil Everyone | Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: National Archives | via About.Com) It was only a matter of time before some enraged religiofascist windbag blamed the Supreme Court decision upholding the healthcare reform law on those wicked, insolent atheists. This one comes to us courtesy of William J. Murray, the son of famed atheist Madelyn Murray O’Hair, who as an adult converted to fundamentalist Christianity. Since then he’s waged his own personal war against the vile forces of atheism. The religiofascist outlet World Net Daily reports on his stretch of reasoning (WebCite cached article):

In an interview with WND, Murray spoke of the Engel v. Vitale case as one of the key Supreme Court decisions that inevitably led to the federal government getting involved in health care. …

“Though it wasn’t as far-reaching and it didn’t affect the lives of everyday Americans as much as this case did today, the case (Engel v. Vitale) was a precursor to the case that removed Bible verses and prayer from school,” said Murray, whose book, “My Life Without God,” documents what his young life was like growing up with a committed communist like O’Hair as his mother.

“The 1963 case was one of the troika of cases that worked to destroy the basic family unit,” Murray explained. “One of the striking things about Obamacare is that it was pushed and promoted out of its necessity because of the breakup of the family. There is no one to take care of the family, because of this.

Did you catch that? Because prayer was taken out of public schools in the 1906s, this somehow prevents families from taking care of themselves. Yes, that’s what Murray thinks: Not only that families no longer take care of themselves, but that the government actively prevents them from doing so.

I must have missed it, because I have yet to see the jackbooted thugs of the federal government barging into people’s homes and pointing their guns at heads of families who manage their own affairs. Have you? Murray must have, because he seems fairly sure it’s happened in every single household in the country. Apparently.

As with most World Nut Daily articles, this one contains links to Murray’s putative “tell-all” memoir of how horrible it was for him to have endured growing up in one of those wicked atheist homes. The article serves as little more than a sales-pitch for the book to all those religiofascists who read it and are hooked by Murray’s irrational and fact-deprived message.

For the record, there is nothing inherently wrong with atheism or any other form of non-belief. In a (supposedly) free country such as this one, we’re free to be non-religious if we wish to be. Religiofascists like Murray are likewise free not to like the fact that non-believers exist … but too bad for them, that’s as far as it can go. For them to lie about non-belief — and to actively campaign to use government to coerce non-believers into believing (cached) — are both wrong, and must not be tolerated.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Austin Cline (Original Poster: National Archives), via About.Com.

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crying-babyThe Christofascist and Neocrusading preacher Terry Jones, head of the Gainesville, FL church which goes by the ill-fitting name of Dove World Outreach Center, is the gift that just keeps on giving. He seems to throw crybaby tantrums almost regularly. His antics over burning Qur’ans are legendary … so legendary that they’ve triggered numerous riots and murders on the other side of the world in Afghanistan. He seethes with anger over the fact that there is such a thing as Islam and that there are Muslims who dare believe in that religion, and reject his own militant fundamentalist Christianity.

It seems, though, that — in spite of his ferocious rage over the existence of Islam — Jones has managed to find a new enemy to bluster and fume about: President Barack Obama. The Smoking Gun reports that Jones and his church have hung the president in effigy, over this support for abortion rights and gay marriage (WebCite cached article):

The Florida pastor who ignited an international furor by threatening to burn a pile of Korans has applied his subtle touch to the 2012 presidential campaign by constructing a gallows from which a likeness of President Barack Obama now hangs in effigy.

The display in the front yard of Terry Jones’s Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC) in Gainesville features a dummy wearing an Obama mask hanging from a yellow noose. Along with an American flag and a rainbow-striped gay pride flag, the scene includes an Uncle Sam dummy and a child’s doll hanging from the right hand of the Obama figure.

Nearby, the words “Obama is Killing America” are printed on a trailer. So, it appears, the creepy Jones is returning the favor.

Here’s the picture itself:

Display in front yard of Dove World Outreach Center, Gainesville, FL (The Smoking Gun)

Setting aside the question of whether or not this constitutes a threat to the president’s life — something the Secret Service will no doubt look into, and probably decide it’s not — it’s true that the First Amendment means Jones can do this. But it’s also true that this is clearly a political message, and that runs counter to the DWOC’s tax-exempt status (since all tax-exempt institutions, religious or not, are precluded from engaging in politicking, as the price they must pay for that tax exemption). Folks around the Web have commented that the IRS will surely look into it, and take away their exemption. I doubt it will come to that, however; the IRS has only rarely done this to religious groups, so the odds are very much in Jones’s favor.

Rightists have also noted that Leftist outrage over this is misplaced and hypocritical, since just a few years ago, Leftist demonstrators hung G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney in effigy. While I’m sure Rightists find this kind of “two wrongs make a right” thinking emotionally satisfying, the real question here is whether or not Jones and his church did something they knew they shouldn’t have (i.e. engage in politicking). It’s pretty clear it wasn’t (and I’m saying that, even assuming the IRS will choose to do nothing about it). Rightists ought to exhibit more integrity than that.

Photo credits: Top, bbaunach, via Flickr; center, The Smoking Gun.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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DSC00777Pastor John Hagee is the well-known pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. He’s a fire-&-brimstone megapreacher of the charismatic-fundamentalist sort. He also happens to be anti-Catholic, and despite being a vocal Christian Zionist, is also anti-Semitic. Yet, for reasons not well understood by observers of Christianity such as myself, he’s widely respected among the Religious Right, and Republican candidates fawn over him, knowing that R.R. voters will do whatever he tells them to without giving it a thought.

As one would expect, therefore, Hagee is also a militant Christianist, and a vehement and devoted Christian Nationer. Naturally, he subscribes to the idea that the United States exists only for Christians, and that others … especially atheists … need to leave. In fact, he stated this explicitly recently, as recorded on video and as reported by Right Wing Watch (WebCite cached version):

Tomorrow, June 6, will be the 68th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy and Pastor John Hagee used his sermon this past Sunday to reflect upon the sacrifices made on this day … and also to tell atheists to get out of America “if our belief in God offends you” because they are not wanted and won’t be missed while also calling on Congress to “outlaw the practice of witchcraft and Satanism in the US military, lest we offend the God of Heaven”

This video, in case you want to watch his ferocious sanctimonious delivery, is available on Youtube:

Oh how the poor little thing just can’t handle that those insidious and insolent atheists dare tread on his own personal and only-Christian domain, the United States! How awful it must be for him to have to put up with their presence … not to mention the presence of Satanists and witches in the military! Why, it’s an abomination that can’t be tolerated for one more second!!!!

Although I’m not a atheist, nor am I a Satanist or witch or warlock, I am nevertheless a committed non-believer, especially in Hagee’s dour, vicious and intolerant religion; so I’ll take Hagee up on his dare. Pastor Hagee, I dare you to come find me — the cold-hearted, skeptical, godless agnostic heathen that I am — and throw me out of your precious Christian country. If you are really as angry as you seem about the presence of atheists in your precious Christian nation, then you have absolutely no reason not to do so immediately. Come on. Do it. I won’t complain, and I won’t stop you. Just throw me out of your country.

If you refuse my challenge, that will only demonstrate you’re nothing but a pathetic, vile, cowardly little troll who can’t and won’t live up to his own stated ideals.

P.S. Again, I’m aware that RWW is an ideologically-driven site, but I’m using their story as a source since they provided primary-source material (i.e. the video).

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: The Jewish Agency for Israel, via Flickr.

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Cry babyIn a move that ought to surprise no one with half a brain, America’s Catholic bishops have decided to ramp up their sanctimonious fury, and are taking the Obama administration to court because it dared to thwart their desire to control the lives of others. The New York Times reports on their continued expression of Christofascist outrage (WebCite cached article):

In an effort to show a unified front in their campaign against the birth control mandate, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts on Monday, challenging the Obama administration’s rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health insurance policies.

The bishops’ hissy fit was orchestrated by the usual suspects, including New York’s Cardinal Dolan:

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, whose archdiocese in New York is among the plaintiffs, said in a statement: “We have tried negotiations with the administration and legislation with the Congress — and we’ll keep at it — but there’s still no fix. Time is running out and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”

The problem is, the Cardinal is lying! Neither he nor any of the rest of the bishops are truly “negotiating” anything with anyone. In order to “negotiate,” one must first be willing to “compromise.” However, at no time have the bishops ever expressed even the slightest desire to “compromise” with anyone. Quite the opposite … they’ve gone on the record as stating they absolutely will not compromise on matters such as this. In their minds, anyone who’s insolent enough to stand in the way of them controlling others and imposing their doctrines on them (whether or not they’re actually Catholic) is an effort to deny them “religious freedom.” As I’ve blogged before, their reasoning is as follows:

  1. We Catholic bishops have religious freedom, and are entitled to hold any beliefs we want
  2. One of our beliefs is that everyone — Catholic or not — is required to live according to Catholic doctrines
  3. Anyone who gets in the way of our forcing everyone to obey Catholic doctrine, therefore …
  4. … is robbing us of our “religious freedom,” which is impermissible.

The bishops object to having to pay for contraception as part of their employees’ health insurance, however, the cold fact is that, at some point, everyone has to pay for something s/he objects to … for whatever reason. For example, I object to having had my tax money used to bail out AIG and many banks a few years ago (cached).* Why should the bishops’ objection to contraception spending be more important than my objection to government bailouts … merely because their objection is religious, while mine is purely fiscal?

Sorry, but there’s no rational way this can be said to be about money. It’s about something else; it’s the Catholic Church’s pushback campaign in the wake of the “priestly pedophilia” scandal, and is an effort to scare up political power and regain the societal influence it once had. The bishops are hoping American courts — capped by the US Supreme Court, which currently has a theocrat-sympathetic majority — will hand them the power they want.

* For the record, I accept that, in a representative republic such as the U.S., the government will sometimes spend money in a way I personally object to. I can live with the bailouts, even if I don’t like them and don’t agree they were wise. Why can’t the bishops say the same about contraception? (Answer: Because they’re too fucking childish to do so!)

Photo credit: tacit requiem.

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Cathedral of St. Mary Peoria IllinoisAmerica’s Roman Catholic bishops are furious at president Barack Obama, because his administration has exhibited what they view as impermissible insolence, and dares to prevent them from forcing the entire population — Catholic or not — from having to live according to their own religious doctrines. Their war against Obama has been going on for several weeks, without letup. Their latest tantrum, as reported by MSNBC, came in the form of Peoria bishop Daniel Jenky hurling a reductio ad Hitlerum at the president (WebCite cached article):

“Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room,” Jenky said. …

“Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care.”

“In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama, with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path,” he said.

I’ve blogged numerous times about the tendency of American pundits and officials to throw around the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy. It goes without saying that it’s old, it’s juvenile, and it fucking needs to stop, fercryinoutloud. Can’t we just give the Nazi comparisons a rest, already?

Jenky and the rest of the bishops appear to predicate their reasoning on something like the following syllogism:

  1. I have religious freedom, and can believe whatever I wish to believe.
  2. One of my beliefs is that everyone is required to live according to my beliefs
  3. Anyone who gets in the way of me imposing my beliefs on others, therefore …
  4. … is thwarting my freedom of religion, which is impermissible.

I’ll open up my longstanding dare — which, to date, no one has shown the courage to accept — to America’s bishops. If you want to exert your “religious freedom” and force me to live according to Catholic doctrine … well, by all means, go right ahead. Give it your best shot, guys! Track me down, and then do whatever you feel you need to do, and make me live however you demand I live.

I don’t see why you wouldn’t do it, since you believe yourself entitled to, and have said as much. Why wouldn’t you put your words into action and coerce me to act like a devout Catholic, if you think it’s necessary?

Let’s face it, folks, the country’s R.C. bishops are a bunch of whining crybabies. Boo fucking hoo. The bishops should fucking grow up and act like the elderly adults they are.

P.S. In past blog posts, I’ve directly addressed — and refuted — the claim that Obama, his administration, the Democrats, or the American Left are Nazis. They are not. The Nazis said and did a lot of things that none of those guys have even imagined doing, much less attempted.

P.P.S. Contrary to what Jenky says, Stalin and Hitler were far from identical in their treatment of religion. The Soviets generally suppressed religion, it’s true, but the Third Reich’s policies were more subtle and manipulative; they commandeered the Reichskirche, or unified Protestant churches of Germany, and subverted it to serve them. They also disarmed the Catholic Church within Germany by signing the Reichskonkordat with the Vatican. Thus, Jenky lied when he said Stalin and Hitler treated religion the same. They absolutely did not, and this places Jenky in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Rick Santorum speaks in Eastlake, OhioI’ve blogged about GOP presidential candidate and militant Christofascist Rick Santorum a number of times already. As his candidacy has slumped, I’d hoped I’d be able to avoid blogging any more about this walking train-wreck. But alas, Santorum has — once again — posed as a theologian. This time, he’s declared that Christianity — as he sees it, anyway — is the source of freedom in the US. ABC News’ The Note blog reports on his ludicrous Religious Rightist pontification, earlier in March (WebCite cached article):

Talking about American exceptionalism, Santorum said the concept of equality came from Christianity, not Islam.

“I love it because the left says equality, equality. Where does that concept come from? Does it come from Islam? Does it come from other cultures around the world? Are men and women treated equally? Are adults and children treated equally? No,” Santorum said. “It comes it comes from our culture and tradition, from the Judeo-Christian ethic. That’s where this comes from-the sense of equality.”

I’ve read this several times and cannot figure out where or how Islam comes into play in this. It doesn’t seem to be of any relevance to the subject at hand. I can only assume it was his attempt to somehow work some derision of Islam into his speech, and thus appeal to any Neocrusaders in the crowd.

As for whether or not Christianity, as a religion, supports or opposes the concept of equality, the record on that is slightly mixed. Christianity appeared in the Greco-Roman world, initially in its eastern portion, and as such was a product of that culture. Greco-Roman society was quite stratified, along many dimensions. There were a number of social classes, with the aristocracy at the top, and several layers underneath, ranging down to unskilled laborers and slaves at the bottom. The genders were divided. Ethnic groups tended to be segregated, in large cities often living in enclaves apart from others. Religions tended, too, to separate people, e.g. with Jews living in their own quarters of cities. The Greco-Roman world was one in which people were born into any number of stratifications, and with few exceptions, they stayed within them their entire lives.

The earliest extant Christian documents, the seven “genuine” Pauline epistles*, which date to the 50s CE, exhibit something of a departure from this, at least doctrinally. For example, Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). (Note, Col 3:11 says something almost identical, however, that epistle is not genuine, it was written long after Paul). Paul elsewhere refers to a blending of classes and genders within the church in his day. Only in the epistle to Philemon does Paul concede that there’s any validity to any class division, and that lies in his apparent support of slavery as it was practiced then.

Later on, however, we find the early church turning away from egalitarianism. In the gospels — written in the last quarter of the first century CE — we see references to people mainly by some sort of identifier (whether it’s ethnic, professional, or social class). In his parables and comments, Jesus uses stereotypes of these identifiers, sometimes ironically (e.g. the Good Samaritan). His reported interactions in the gospels are often with groups (e.g. he dressed down “the Pharisees”). Jesus also preached to the lower classes as though their plight had virtue in itself. In general, the gospels are written assuming that people fall into various fixed classifications, that this is how things were supposed to be, and that none other than Jesus Christ himself acted as though this was the case. In only one regard is Jesus said to have resisted the prevailing class-wisdom of his time, and this was by attracting “sinners” as followers.

Subsequent Christianity either stated explicitly, or implied, that social classifications, ethnicity, etc. were all God-ordained and that everyone was required to live within the strictures of his/her position in society. That remained the case until the Enlightenment. Even then, the notion of complete equality took a long time to develop. For instance, initially the United States gave voting privileges only to white landowning males. Suffrage was expanded only incrementally over the last 200 years. Also, slavery was legal in the early U.S. and was abolished only after the Civil War. Christianity’s teachings had little to do with this, at least for the first 16 centuries or so of its existence.

It’s true that equality movements like Abolition were comprised of many Christians who believed that Christianity taught to open freedom to others, but this was not universal in Christianity. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, was founded by southern slave-owning Baptists who opposed the Abolitionist turn their denomination was taking in the 19th century. They, and other Christians, insisted that the Biblical “Curse of Ham” meant that God had rendered black Africans less-than-human.

It is correct to say that the concept of equality can, historically speaking, be viewed as anti-Christian (and anti-Judeo-Christian). Once again, by claiming otherwise, Santorum reveals his ignorance of both history and Christian theology. Well done, Rickie … well done!

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: PBS NewsHour.

* The seven epistles in question are: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, Philippians, Romans, and 1 Thessalonians.

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